Three Exercises Pre-Teens Can Do to Improve Their Writing
No matter what field you plan to enter, strong writing skills are a must have.
Writing is a basic form of communication among students and professionals alike. It is never too early to begin honing your academic writing skills.
Here are three exercises that will help you communicate better, feel more confident, and ultimately become a better writer.
Academic writing almost always starts with a prompt. Whether it is a question asked by a teacher as part of a class assignment or a question included on a college application, you will most likely need to provide an answer in the form of a written response.
The first step is to brainstorm.
Making a list of possible responses can provide a bank of ideas to develop while thinking maps may help you organize your thoughts visually.
Try a few different methods to find out what works for you and your style of learning. Once you get this process down, you will be able to brainstorm throughout your school years and become a better writer.
A few brainstorming methods to try include:
Make a list. Include every idea that comes to mind. It can help to set a timer and write down all of your ideas, big and small, that occur within that time limit.
Thought mapping. Once you have your ideas written down, organize them visually. You can do this by linking relevant thoughts to each other with lines. Lists organized by theme are also helpful to see connections.
Figuring storming. Imagine answers to the prompt that someone else would give. This can be a famous person, influential leader, or even someone that you know and respect.
Mind mapping. A form of thought mapping, the mind map organizes sub-ideas around a central idea, usually the theme or even the prompt itself. You’ll be able to see which approach you favor based on the number or quality of responses in that area.
Brainstorming proves beneficial in group assignments as well.
You can each brainstorm individually then combine your ideas into one master list or map. Also, you may consider brainstorming as a group, building on the ideas of your fellow students.
Write and revise
Learning to edit, or rewrite, your work is a critical step for any writer. But revision can become time-consuming and frustrating if you don’t have a road map for editing.
The next time that you have some academic writing to do, follow these three revision steps.
1. Start with a draft. Following the prompt and using your brainstorming tools, write out a first draft. It does not need to be perfect; revision steps will take care of those details. The important thing is to identify your overall main point. Highlight or underline that main idea to make sure that it is front and center in your writing.
2. Edit in stages. Read through your draft a few times, focusing on a different revision each time. The most common elements to revise are:
Spelling (Use spell check or other tools on your computer program.)
Overuse of weak verbs (“Is” and “are” are commonly overused and can often be replaced with more descriptive words.)
3. Complete a final polish. Read your writing one last time to make sure that it is correct and communicates exactly what you intended.
The more you go through the steps of revising your writing, the faster you will identify areas that need improvement. You will also find that you catch mistakes, such as grammar, spelling, or punctuation, as you write initially. Your writing skills will improve by spending time learning and mastering the basics.
Practice new vocabulary
The average English-speaking adult knows between 20,000 and 35,000 words. The average eight-year-old knows around 10,000 words.
How do we learn and master so many new vocabulary words? By using them, of course.
The same principle applies to writing. Using new vocabulary words in academic writing helps cement them in our brains, to be used later in other forms of communication.
Try using a new vocabulary word every time you complete a piece of academic writing. It can be a word that is specific to the class or a more general advanced description word.
The New York Times publishes a Word of the Day to help readers practice new vocabulary. Word of the Day apps are also available for smart phones and tablets, including ones that focus on SAT-type vocabulary.
Improving as a writer takes both time and practice. By focusing on specific exercises as a pre-teen, you can feel confident that you are taking steps to become an excellent communicator as you enter high school, college, and beyond.
Building these habits early in your school career will pay off when you are able to focus on your goals later, knowing that you have a strong foundation in academic writing.
Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion.